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In Brief: Wilsons to Cut Stores, Jobs… Del Vecchio in Tax Probe

Wilsons The Leather Experts Inc. said it plans to close 160 stores and cut over 1,000 jobs in an effort to reduce costs.

WILSONS TO CUT STORES, JOBS: Wilsons The Leather Experts Inc. said it plans to close 160 stores and cut over 1,000 jobs in an effort to reduce costs. The company will remodel its 100 remaining stores to a new “Studio” concept, which will be a brand-driven store for women focusing on fashion accessories. The new accessories concept started testing last fall in four different regions, and the company said it was pleased with the initial results. Wilsons expects to complete the remodels by August. The company expects to launch an inventory liquidation and resolve lease terminations over the next 90 to 120 days. The store closures will result in the elimination of 938 store-related positions, and 64 cuts elsewhere.

DEL VECCHIO IN TAX PROBE: Luxottica Group SpA chairman Leonardo Del Vecchio has been ordered to pay 20.4 million euros, or $30 million, in missed tax payments and fines, Italian authorities told WWD on Monday. The charges relate to share transactions made in 1997 and 1998 via a holding company in Germany, which authorities claim Del Vecchio illegally used to avoid paying higher corporate taxes in Italy. Del Vecchio has denied the charges and is appealing the decision. If he does have to cough up the $30 million in payments and fines, Del Vecchio will be dipping in to a net worth estimated at $11.5 billion by Forbes magazine, putting him in 52nd place in last year’s billionaires list. Authorities said the German holding company in question, Leofin, did not have any employees or other overheads, which justified it being incorporated in Germany. The case is not related to eyewear manufacturer Luxottica.